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Sexual Assault Centre of Edmonton seeks more funding to address waitlist issues for survivors

Click to play video: 'Sexual Assault Centre of Edmonton needs more funding to address long wait times'
Sexual Assault Centre of Edmonton needs more funding to address long wait times
The Sexual Assault Centre of Edmonton says it's in a dire situation. Victims reaching out for support are waiting a year or more for help, and SACE says it needs money from the Alberta government to solve that problem. Sarah Komadina has more. – Jan 25, 2023

The head of the Sexual Assault Centre of Edmonton (SACE) says while the provincial government has proposed what it describes as “modest” additional funding to address rising demand for sexual assault services, it will not solve the problem of survivors needing to wait for help.

In a news release issued Wednesday, SACE CEO Mary Jane James said people at her organization “see the impacts of sexual violence every day and continue to offer essential support services at no fee,” but with growing numbers of Albertans asking for trauma counselling, wait times at SACE are now exceeding 12 months.

“Despite how far our world has come with understanding the prevalence and seriousness of this issue, sexual violence continues to have a very consistent presence in our society. The stats have not changed: nearly half of Albertans will experience sexual violence in their life,” James said.

“We also know that sexual violence disproportionately impacts those who are pushed into positions of vulnerability, including Black, Indigenous and other racialized people, members of 2SLGBTQ+ communities and people with disabilities.”

The Association of Alberta Sexual Assault Services (AASAS) raised the issue with the provincial government last year and said it presented government officials with research data it says supports moving to “increase specialized support and prevention services.”

“Since then, SACE has been working with government staff, speaking with ministers and advocating for survivors,” Tuesday’s news release said.

“The proposed one year of modest additional funding recently presented by the Alberta government is not going to solve the waitlist issues, nor will it address the critical importance of prevention services and education.”

READ MORE: SACE executive director discusses the effect of campaigns like Time’s Up

When asked for comment, the Alberta government’s director of community and social services communications and public engagement told Global News the province is “committed to combating sexual violence and ensuring proper care is available to victims,” and acknowledges the role sexual assault centres play in supporting victims.

“Following Budget 2020, we increased budgets for sexual assault centres over three years, bringing our ministry’s sexual violence prevention funding to $13.8 million in 2022-23,” Lisa Shankaruk wrote in an email. “Overall, government provides over $17 million across four ministries.

“The proposal from AASAS will be reviewed over the coming months.”

READ MORE: New Calgary program aims to help victims of sexual assault get better access to legal support

According to an AASAS study conducted in 2020, 43 per cent of Albertans have experienced sexual violence in their lifetime.

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